Unconditional Love?

Growing up I had always heard the God’s love was unconditional. In the spirit of not holding on to empty theological phrases and terms, I think its time for this idea to be discussed.

Clearly God is a God of love. Love permeates His character so much so that He is actually described as the personification of love (see I John 4:8). In fact, much of I John 4 speaks a great deal on love and God’s relationship to it. God’s love has been manifest primarily through the sacrificial death of Jesus. In each instance where the Scriptures speak of God’s love, God showing love or God in fact being love, all are in relationship to the cross. Check me out on that – it’s a great study.

So with the cross being the primary way God has shown love, there is no doubt that the God of the Bible is one who manifests love. Those who want to imitate Him would do well to imitate this quality with their brothers and sisters, as well as their neighbors and enemies.

However, God is more than simply defined in the word “love.” In Exodus 34, God describes Himself in 8 unique attributes which serve as the foundational understanding and description of Him through the rest of the Bible. In His own description of Himself we find more than just a repetition of synonyms of “love”:

Exodus 34:6-7 – “Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”

When God destroyed the earth by the flood, it was not because He is love, but because He is just. When He planned for His only begotten son to die, it was not because He does not leave the guilty unpunished but because He is gracious and longs to forgive iniquity, transgression and sin. We must allow the full spectrum of God’s character to define His actions and plans. We cannot look at only one quality of God and neglect the rest.

So, in light of these things, let’s return to the subject of God’s love. The love of God is the theme for our songs, many books and countless sermons. Maybe we can have some intelligent discussion about the subject.

After a great discussion at our home bible study this week, I thought I would pose the question to our blog fellowship as well. I have my own thoughts which I can elaborate on later, but in the meantime, I’m looking forward to your thoughts. I’m not looking for a specific answer or yes or no. Let’s start the discussion with this question:

“Does God love us with an unconditional love?”

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5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by JohnO on January 9, 2007 at 12:11 am

    I think God’s unconditional love is the fact that while we were sinner’s Christ died for us.

    I think that is the only “unconditional” part of it that I see from scriptures.

    Sure God will bless unfaithful people from time to time. But that isn’t his “unconditional” love – that is him telling people he is there, and that he is watching. And when he judges – he says the same thing. I am watching.

    Reply

  2. Posted by sean on January 10, 2007 at 1:20 pm

    Does the Bible ever say that God loves with unconditional love? Isn’t the love demonstrated on the cross enough? Do we need to extend that to, “I can do whatever I want and He still loves me?” Then for whom is His wrath? According to the Scriptures, His wrath abides on the unrepentant (Jn 3.36; Ro 2.4-5; Eph 2.3). His love is offered to all but those who reject it receive His righteous indignation instead (though He would much rather that each person would repent and be forgiven cf. Ez 18.23, 32).

    Reply

  3. Posted by delton on January 11, 2007 at 2:01 am

    I agree with Sean that God’s love is not unconditional. In fact, it is highly conditional. According to most doctrines, to receive the love we must believe in acknowledge we have sinned and believe that Christ died for us as an atonement : setting a distinct line for who receives God’s love and who does not. Some quick research I did online confirms that the term “unconditional love” is not really biblical, but is used by the church as a recruitment tool. Personally, I have always detested the slogans “God loves you” and “god is love”. It sets a high precedent leading to theodicy arguments “if God loves me, then why…?”. And, it fosters general laxity, not the fear of the lord and humility we are supposed to have. After all, Christianity is about morality and the belief that God has supreme control : he “loves good and hates evil”.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Victor on January 11, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    delton, thanks for posting. As I have cited in my original blog, the Bible does indeed communicate the fact that “love” is personified by God Himself. However, as your quick research showed, the term “unconditional love” is not found in Scripture.

    I have been frustrated at times by the empty phrases adopted as theology and doctrine. It is important for us to think through the things we believe – why do we believe this, where did I get my information, etc…are all good questions to ask.

    Reply

  5. Posted by TPI on January 17, 2007 at 3:25 pm

    Hi! Everyone

    It should be plainly stated at the outset that cultural Christianity insists on rationalized imaginings which oftentimes serve only to diminish the inherent truth and integrity of the Scriptures.

    We should not be surprised to find that many continue to wrestle with the term ‘unconditional love’ simply because they remain unable to extricate themselves from under the stare of the enemy. In a frenzy to camouflage their inability to confess a proper and true perception of God’s only good and perfect attributes, they have abandoned themselves to feeble rationale.

    Knowing something about God’s unconditional love requires that we first have a proper image of God’s character and nature. And, conversely, properly knowing who God is allows us to begin to recognize who we ourselves are as children of the Living God.

    The Scriptures have God declaring that there is a time coming when HE will have people who will worship {obey} Him in truth and in Spirit. The Spirit of the law of God is Love. God never ever is detached from His nature. God never “transgresses” the Love which is intrinsic to His nature. Therefore, the essence of the Ten Commandments is always fulfilled in/through Him.

    Neither is there any other spirit such as wrath, anger or condemnation in God. These shades of darkness are non-existent in God. They have no existing or living place in God ever. The love of God is the Spirit of the Law of Life which was testified to in Christ Jesus. This is to be who we are as well.

    Moreover, the Spirit of God, which is love, is the only Spirit which is able to absorb sufferings and rejections (from the ‘prince of this world and his followers) and continue to live and love those who do evil to Christ and men. Thus, we understand that Jesus’ commandments to those who would be His witnesses as disciples and teachers, does not allow them to engage any works of affliction and death to anyone in His name. We strive to receive God’s wisdom as our own judgment and discernment and this shows our participation with our inheritance in the wonderous plan of salvation in Christ Jesus.

    The love of God reveals Who God is and what His spirit or nature is. Jesus Christ revealed the love of God to all people no matter what they did to Him. He said, follow Me, or follow this example. The apostles fully taught this too. Yet, this has been much maligned as weakness and has been refuted in cultural Christianity for centuries because the lusts of the flesh have been dominant over Christians.

    We must recognize that God loves us “unconditionally” in the sense that God loves us because He is God and, equally important, God always knows His creation to be worthy of His love. God’s testimony to His ‘unconditional love’ is that He has freed us from the slavery of the evil one and equips us to freely serve Him without fear. Our entire salvation experience speaks of God’s intense dedication, strong connectedness and unconditional love.

    God always desired us to be His sons and daughters, and to have access to all His promises and blessings. Oftentimes, the biggest battle is in believing what God says about us. Why? Because the enemy lies to us, intimidates us, accuses us, condemns us, and constantly names us as failures.

    Knowing who we are plays an important part in our relationships with people. We know how much we are loved by God, and therefore, we can freely love others. When I know that I know that I am His son or daughter, and that I am very precious to Him, then I do not have a problem believing this about others too; even if they fail to see it for themselves.

    When we find ourselves in conflict with someone, it is a blessed opportunity to live out who we are: a child of the living God who loves unconditionally and which permits us to know how to walk in unconditional love towards everyone.

    Smile!

    Reply

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